Honduras post-election euphoria morphs into crisis

Tegucigalpa, Jan 23 (EFE).- The political crisis in Honduras on Sunday led to the election of two directive boards by two opposing sections of the newly-elected Congress, thus threatening President-elect Xiomara Castro’s ability to govern and carry out anti-corruption reforms she promised in her campaign.

Castro, the leader of the leftist Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre), is scheduled to be inaugurated next Thursday.

Libre won 50 seats in Honduras 128-seat legislature in the elections, and thus – in order to get any bills passed – it requires political allies to create a majority.

The euphoria among Castro’s supporters since her Nov. 28 election has morphed into discontent, repudiations and uncertainty, amid outbreaks of violence among lawmakers, the crisis starting to brew shortly after she and her husband – former President Manuel Zelaya – in October 2021 forged an alliance, solely for the presidential campaign, with two other minority opposition parties.

As part of that alliance, the head of the Salvation Party of Honduras (PSH), Salvador Nasralla, obtained 10 seats in Congress and demanded that Castro select him for her running mate, which she did.

However, a large group of lawmakers from Castro’s party rebelled at this pick and the split threatens to hand control of Parliament back to the National and Liberal Parties, which have controlled the Central American country’s presidency for decades.

Castro supporters surrounded Congress on the weekend and one bloc of about 20 lawmakers met at a Tegucigalpa country club on Sunday to elect a dissident legislator – Jorge Calix – to head the legislative body, rather than Luis Redondo, with the PSH, whom Nasralla had picked for the job.

Castro does not recognize the board headed by Calix, although she has tweeted her recognition of Redondo, and the groups supporting both men claim to have a majority.

The Libre party expelled 18 or 19 of the lawmakers who defected and some of them joined forces with the lame duck National Party (PN), leading some observers to contend that the outgoing government may be trying to stymie the new administration’s plans and ability to govern right from the start.

Castro had tweeted regarding the dissident lawmakers that “These traitors – who are singing like mermaids and say they are defending the will of the people – that’s a lie. It isn’t true.”

Her election win makes her the first woman president of Honduras and is set to bring an end to 12 years of governance by the PN, which Castro accuses of corruption.

Castro followers on Sunday continued their sit-in on the lower floor of the legislature, while Libre activists set up barricades of stones and tires around the Zambrano country club, where the dissidents had gathered to select Calix, who departed the scene in a helicopter guarded by private security agents.

The US Embassy in Honduras on Twitter on Saturday called on all “political actors to remain calm, engage in dialogue, refrain from provocative rhetoric and violence, and urge their supporters to express themselves peacefully while respecting the rule of law.”

Washington is keeping its eye on resolving the crisis so that the Castro administration can subsequently address the poverty-stricken country’s problems, not least of which is the fact that many Hondurans are joining migrant caravans and illegally heading for the US seeking better economic opportunities.

EFE gr/cfa/bp

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